When in Manila, you will occasionally find reluctant travelers like me. And when you find them, you need to take them to non-mainstream places that will definitely knock their socks off and convince them to join the YOLO bandwagon of happy travelers. Tie them up and throw them to the unknown. I give this advice as a former travel-averse human being who likes holing up in the computer all day.
This summer, I dare you to send an obstinate and introverted friend to a mission of chasing waterfalls on a sunny day. If you cannot convince your friend that travel is worth it, let Mother Nature do it for you. Such was my experience. A work-related mission compelled me to spend a week in Iligan City. I was actually afraid because I did not know what to expect. There are only a handful of online articles about exploring Iligan, the city of waterfalls. So here are 6 of the many awesome things worth chasing there.
6 Things to Chase in Iligan, the City of Waterfalls
6. Filter-free Beauty of Nature
As a tourist destination, it is highly underrated. As a picturesque manifestation of nature’s beauty, it is the unsullied ground of Nature’s masterpiece at its finest. And even when image processing is the current norm, I have to tell you that in Iligan’s case, nature, very much like a genuinely beautiful woman, needs no filter on Instagram or anywhere else:
Additionally, some people can get intimidated with the extra security and the additional PNP checkpoints that mark Iligan’s points of entry. But apart from the extra PNP checkpoints, the only danger that you can encounter when you go here is the danger of not giving the place the justice it rightfully deserves.
5. Traffic-free Serenity
From Laguindingan airport, you will be ushered towards the city through numerous bridges and PNP checkpoints. It’s around 36 kilometers away from the CDO airport. It’s mostly green and mostly water, being a predominantly coastal area. A van rental from the airport to Iligan costs around Php 2,000 and is already good enough for a group of 8 to 10 people.
4. Fresh and Delicious Food
Apart from the breathtaking view of nature’s finest scenery, Iligan boasts of good food. Fruits and seafood are fresh, servings are large, people are hospitable, and meals are tasty. You will find few of their locals who will tell you that their food is good. But taste buds do not lie, and in our motley crew of 6 who traveled there, we had our fill of the finest foods that were accessible to us in our accommodation. Delecta’s famous salad, shown below, is really something worth trying even if you are not a fan of vegetables.
3. The Hospitality and Service
The people’s attitude about their amenities reflect the personality of the place itself: they are all awesome without trying. You won’t find them hyping up their place with ostentatious claims. They don’t need excessive marketing to sell their visual treasures because travelers who experience Iligan live on, go back, and tell the tale for them.
If by any chance you feel a little bit homesick for Manila, there are milk tea shops that will allow you to feel right at home in this unique city:
2. Hoping and (Waterfall) Hopping
The highlight of an Iligan trip is an exploration of its finest waterfall treasures.
If you want the popular route, you can take the journey to Nature’s Park where the Maria Cristina power plant is housed. On pages of school history textbooks, it’s called the tallest waterfall in the Philippines. However, it’s an entirely different experience viewing the enormous waterfall from its official viewing deck:
As you get nearer and nearer Maria Cristina Falls, you will hear the power of the water literally howling. According to the guy at the power plant, the hydropower was set to 90% of its maximum capacity at the time that we visited it:
While I loved books, the pages will not be able to give justice to the majestic aura of this body of water. You will hear the water howl at you, unapologetic of its power and existence, and you will finally understand why and how it is considered as one of Mindanao’s major energy sources.
However, more than this famous icon of Iligan, there are other waterfalls that are not as exposed but are equally worth exploring. One of the most easily accessible is the Mimbalut Waterfalls.
And just when I thought that Mimbalut and Maria Cristina are the main highlights of the trip, we were challenged by the locals to take 436 steps downward to visit the final waterfall, Tinago:
We went on board the raft and went as close as humanely possible to Tinago’s main waterfall. It was impossible to do this safely at Maria Cristina but Tinago allows tourists like me to wade in the cool waters and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Going downwards the 436 steps was manageable, but returning to our vehicle after swimming and exploring Tinago was the bigger challenge:
For the more adventurous climbers, there is a rough pathway on another side that they claim to be less tiring than these 436 carved steps.
1. Off the Beaten Path
My Iligan experience was capped by the exploration of the unexplored areas that are just as beautiful:
It is best to explore these areas with the help of locals because some areas are off-limits due to security reasons. There are unwritten rules that need to be followed which are probably why Iligan remains relatively unsullied by time and urban developments.
Seeing all of this in just 7 days of work and leisure opened my eyes to a new horizon. I finally realized that what I see in books needs to be balanced by enriching experiences that open my eyes to the beauty of the world outside of my imagination.
When in Manila, it is important to value the fact that there are necessary journeys worth taking to change your life for the better. And sometimes, you need to push people to the deep end of the water, literally and figuratively, to show them how much of life needs to be experienced to the fullest.
Iligan City LGU’s Tourism Office
Iligan City Hall, Buhanginan Hills, Palao, Iligan City